Welcome to our monthly advice column from Citizens Advice Bury and Bolton. Each month, we’ll be tackling an advice query about a specific issue, sharing information and letting you know where to go for support. Remember, if you need any advice you can contact our team: freephone 0808 278 7804 or visit www.cabb.org.uk to find out more about our advice by video service or to self-refer.
I’ve got loads of problems with my house that I’ve been putting off fixing – a faulty boiler, a window that won’t shut properly, broken light fittings. The list goes on! I want to sort it out but I’ve had bad experiences with dodgy builders in the past. How do I find someone I can trust?
Making home improvements can be stressful, but there are a few steps you can follow to help it go smoothly.
First, find a Trading Standards ‘approved trader’. You can look for one in your area online or use the Government’s approved trader scheme TrustMark.
It’s also worth checking if they’re a current member of a trade body. Trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong. Ask who they’re registered with and then check the trade body’s website.
For any gas and electric fixes, only use certified traders – it’s dangerous to use someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. You can check the Gas Safe Register for a list of traders and use a registered electrician who can certify their own work.
It’s always helpful to get references or recommendations where possible. Ask your friends, family or neighbours if they know of anyone they’d recommend. You can also ask the person you hire for examples of work they’ve carried out in the past. Try to avoid contractors who won’t give references – it’s a sign they could be dishonest.
When you find someone, ask for a written quote – this is different to an estimate. A quote is legally binding and the tradesperson can’t change it without a good reason – for example, if you ask for extra work to be done. It’s worth comparing quotes from several contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
Next, get a written contract. This should cover exactly what you’re paying for and everything you’ve agreed on, including timings, payments, who will pay for materials and any subcontractors if needed. When it comes to payment, it’s best to opt to pay in stages rather than upfront. Try to pay by card if you can – this can give you extra safeguards if something goes wrong.
Finally, make sure your trader is fully insured. Keep copies of receipts and your written contract. These will be important as evidence if things go wrong. It’s also helpful to take photos of any problems if they arise.
If you have a problem with a contractor and you’re not sure what to do, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133 or talk to an adviser online through the Citizens Advice website.
If you need help or are worried about your situation, we can help. Get in touch with us free on 0808 278 7804 or visit cabb.org.uk for more ways to access support and self-refer and we’ll call you back.